Ferentz Sees Progress this Spring

13 practices down, and two to go; Iowa's spring practice session is nearing and end, and it will culminate with Saturday's practice in Kinnick Stadium that is open to the fans. Ferentz talks plenty of spring football, in addition to his thoughts on Zach Johnson's Masters win, Iowa being a 'football school' and much more in this general press conference transcript...

KIRK FERENTZ'S OPENING STATEMENTS

Welcome. Good to see everyone and I will start by saying that I have a confession to make. My nose is a little out of joint. We have been practicing three plus weeks and all the attention is going towards basketball. I am feeling a little out of place here. In all seriousness, it has been an exciting couple of weeks on the basketball front. The only thing I don't appreciate is having basketball weather here the last week of practice. We are sorry to see Steve leave and he seems excited about his new opportunity. I just want to take a minute and congratulate Gary Barta on conducting an outstanding search. I am sure there were a lot of great candidates, but Todd Lickliter looks like a great selection for our school and programs. I have met him twice now and he seems like a very impressive guy and he has an impressive resume. How Gary kept it as quiet as he did this whole time, I will never know. That was the amazing part of it all. It looks like everything came out well there.

On our front, it's been a good couple three weeks since we last visited. We have three important days left. We will practice today, tomorrow and then on Saturday. We have a lot of work to do. Three out of 15 practices is a big percentage and we need to make more strides this week so there is a lot of importance with the work we have remaining. I think overall the attitude has been good and the guys have worked hard for the most part as well. We are making progress. No big surprises from our veterans, the experienced guys are performing the way they might. It has been good and fun for us to get an extended look at our younger players. We did that some in December and this is more extensive. We get to see them handle some things schematically and watch how they react. We are moving along on making progress.

Right now, our depth chart is something you write down in pencil. There are some guys, I would be surprised if they got unseated, but that is the way it should be but a lot of positions are open and I foresee that going onto the latter part of camp. We have the kind of team where a lot of things can change and where a lot of guys can improve and make changes that way. We will keep an open mind and go from there. I will wrap up on the injury front, there is not a lot to report. Karl Klug and Tom Busch missed all spring with out of season surgeries. They are both moving forward. With Tom's case, it's a matter of something healing. He will be cleared in June. In Karl's case, he has been aggressively training on the side now, and we are happy about that. The only significant thing to report is that Jeff Tarpinian had a shoulder instability that had to be repaired after the first week of practice. That is tough, no doubt about it. The good news is that he will be full speed in August. The only other thing is that Tony Moeaki has missed his second week. He sprained his shoulder, and the test came back with good news, nothing that has to be repaired, but he has missed significant time. Other guys have been in and out, some guys that you want to look at that have missed time. You always deal with that, it's a part of football. But outside of Jeff's situation, there hasn't been anything serious to report. Q: How many practices have you had in the bubble due to the weather?

Kirk Ferentz: More than we care to. I am not a huge one for going inside. We have been very fortunate outside of bowl prep to not be in there, but this spring has been tough. Last Tuesday, the day Todd was announced, it was beautiful at 11am, and then we went outside and it got windier, and a little cooler and by the end of that day, it was almost counter productive so we went in Wednesday and we have been in there ever since.

Q: Is there a chance that you could cancel the open practice on Saturday, and have to move indoors?

Ferentz: We will practice no matter what. It would take something severe, and we don't want to tear the field up, but it sounds like as the week moves on it will get better and we can get outside. The biggest concern will deter the crowd. If you have a great day, it would be a festive environment.

Q: There are just two seniors on the offensive two deep. Where does the leadership come from?

Ferentz: Leadership is open to everyone and we are getting good leadership. On offense, it will be critical. If you take our backs out of the equation, we don't have any seniors. You look at Seth Olson who played a lot last year and was a success story, he was struggling last year at this time. He struggled through camp and we were not sure if he would come out of it, but when he got his opportunity at Illinois he did well. We have some guys that are doing well and our backs are practicing real well and we need that.

Q: How has Alex Kanellis adjusted to the offensive line?

Ferentz: He is doing pretty well. He is one of the guys that had an injury, nothing major, but he missed four practices and he will be back today. Basically with anyone that makes a position change, it's a process to go through and missing some workouts adds to it. He has a good future, we are on the right page and hopefully he will be back today full speed and get these last three days under his belt. He is moving in the right direction.

Q: Do you like that the attention has been on basketball?

Ferentz: I love it, it has been fantastic. This is basketball season, there is a lot going on with March madness and the Final Four. The other piece in that is Zach Johnson's great win. I am not a huge golf fan, but I peaked at it when he was on the 10th hole. Once we saw what was going on, you got captivated by it. What a great effort that was. I think everyone in our state is proud of him.

Q: Do you know that Zach Johnson is a big Hawkeye fan?

Ferentz: I had the pleasure of meeting him two years ago. He spoke to our team on the Thursday before our Michigan game. He and Nate Kaeding seem like they could be related, in their demeanor, their attitude. I think there is a quiet confidence with both of them and a great mental toughness and it was a treat to talk with him. One thing that jumped out at me is that he was not the #1 guy in high school or college, and he shared that with our team. To watch him perform the other day, that chip on 18, that was big time. That was fun.

Q: Have there been any changes to the quarterback situation?

Ferentz: Things have changed. Jake still enjoys a real advantage, not unlike what Drew Tate had being Nathan Chandler's backup. But the intriguing thing is that both the freshmen are doing a nice job, they are both performing well. I think with them, its like the position change guys, this is a real learning process for them and I think we will really be able to gauge where they are at in mid-August. We will see how they process the spring and improve over the summer, but I think they will all be at a higher level in August. When they watch film on their own, it will mean more to them. Things will make more sense to them than they did before we got started. We are pleased with all the guys that aer competing. Adam Farnsworth is doing a nice job, too.

Q: Are you getting more comfortable with the kicking game?

Ferentz: I overlooked that. The hardest area to gauge is the kicking game. It's like quarterbacks, you are never sure until they are in the game. The good news is that we have seen all three kickers that are in contention, the two kickers and the punter. They have done some nice things and look like they are capable, and now consistency is the big thing, for all positions but its more apparent in the kicking game. TO answer the question, and that hurt us with the weather, we need to get outside for them. That one is up in the air a little bit and probably will be tough to get a handle on it to get going.

Q: What will be the procedure for Saturday's practice?

Ferentz: It will be similar to what we have done the last couple of Saturdays. It will be a controlled scrimmage. That being said, last Saturday we moved the ball around a bit with situations where the coaches made calls. We will do that again Saturday for two or three series, where we will just play the situation as it arises and practice some other situations. The first and second teams will get 36 to 40 snaps, with scrimmage situations, Hopefully it will be a good day.

Q: Are actual Spring games long gone?

Ferentz: Some people are doing it, but to me right now, with 15 practices, it's a little tough when the roster is smaller. There is some upside, but I don't know what that is right now. We have to have another day to teach in certain situations, create situations the way we want to do it and get the guys in that environment so we have some teaching tape. To give that up right now, we are not able to do that.

Q: You mentioned the last time we spoke that you had 12 or 13 offensive linemen in the mix. Is that number still there or are things sorting out a bit?

Ferentz: They are sorting out a little bit. The guys near the bottom are struggling with the most is size and strength. That can change significantly over three months, especially with younger players. I like the way they are competing. I like the way they are thinking out there and they are learning. We have had a couple of injury problems. Kanellis has missed some snaps, Travis Meade has missed some snaps. For the most part, it's a jump ball. There is a top 8 and next four category right now. But I couldn't tell you who are five starters are and I would not want to try. That will go through camp. It's like at quarterback, at some point you have to name one. At some point we have to practice in a set way, but now we are rotating guys around. We have had a lot of guys playing multiple positions, Dace is probably the only one staying at tackle.

Q: How important is it on Saturday to have the fans there, for your team to practice in front of them?

Ferentz: In a perfect world it would be a beautiful day and I am guessing we would have a great crowd because we haven't been in Kinnick the past few years. But, it doesn't look like it will be that way. I am sure we will still have a good group out there. The one thing that was amazing to me at the bowl game, I told my wife, she had a great idea after the pep rally and we walked through the Riverwalk. That was a real good idea, it's hard to be inconspicuous. But after the game, people were hanging outside the hotel. Our fans acted like we were the national champs at the bowl game. That was amazing to me. The support we receive here is amazing and we don't take that for granted.

Q: Have you altered anything this spring, your approach?

Ferentz: Not dramatically. We did the two days before break, and it seems like that worked out OK. We have had more space in between practices which is good. We made things more competitive by structure, but not radically different. The guys have gotten an honest days work each practice and they have given that to us and they have given us great effort.

Q: In the past you have said that you had a sense for how things might work out in the fall, based on spring practices. Has that been the case this year?

Ferentz: Yes and no. You get indicators and feelings, but things can change too. We were going along well last year. I still can't put my finger on a lot of things. I can on some, in retrospect. But we are moving in the right direction and that is good and what you want at this point. But it's April 11th, and all you can do is all you can do. The question is can we do that until the season ends and we have a long road there.

Q: You talked about leadership; has Jake shown that?

Ferentz: Going into spring ball I commented that my sense is that Jake has done a good job with everybody. The feedback you get. Now that we are in practice, I think he is doing that and he has been real positive. He is working back behind when his group is not in there, talking to the receivers, the backs, about what they saw. He has had his hands full thinking about things as he has a lot on his plate. He is a younger player and he is doing a good job. I think our seniors are giving us everything they have. We don't have Tom Busch in there, but Damien and Albert are doing a good job. The guys on defense are doing great and then young guys have to jump in there. Some younger guys are capable too and they are aware that we need them to step up now.

Q: With the NFL draft coming up, do you think a couple of your players will get selected?

Ferentz: The guys did well at senior day, and I haven't put a pencil to it, but I think we will have a couple drafted on the first day and maybe a couple more the second day. 6 to 8 will be in camps, roughly. It's a real exciting time for young people. A guy like Scott Chandler, he has had a busy month. He got married recently and he has the draft coming up. Some position coaches have come through and worked guys out. You look at a guy like Mike Elgin, he is the smartest guy in the building when everyone is here. He is going to get a chance to play pro football and when its over he has a job waiting for him in Dubuque with John Deere and that was his goal coming in. He was recruited harder by the business world than he was in high school for football. They told him they would wait 10 years for him, and you are happy to see that.

Q: How is Dace Richardson coming along?

Ferentz: He is making progress, and he has been out there every day. But again, we are not ready to crown anyone as the starter up front or say that this guy is a lock synch. He has the benefit of having more experience than a lot of the guys, he and Rafael had good game time experience. We need them to continue to improve and stay consistent. I think the fact that those two guys played last year, if they can keep improving, that would help us out to have three guys that have played a lot to help anchor things. The competition has been good.

Q: You were deep at tight end last year, but not so much this year.

Ferentz: We are different there. We had four guys we felt good with putting in the game last year. We feel good about Tony. He was practicing well. There was no need for repair, and he hit that thing pretty good. But he will be ready to go. Brandon Meyers was one of the guys I singled out from December. He continues to do a nice job. He is starting to see himself as a Big Ten football player and acting like one, in a consistent way. He is getting where we hoped he would get, so that gives us a good 1-2 punch. After that it's a jump ball.

Q: When coach Alford left, he gave some comments that Iowa is a football school. What do you say to that?

Ferentz: I don't know the whole history, but it could have been said the opposite way when Coach Fry got here. I know we were doing well in basketball. The bottom line is that I have been here 17 years, and I believe the people of Iowa want to support everything. They have proven that. They have been very supportive of football, basketball, wrestling and that is one of the neat things we have here. We sell that in recruiting. There are not pro teams in our state and the focus is on our student athletes in all sports. It's a great environment and we are thrilled to be involved with it.


Hawkeye Insider Top Stories